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Microsoft Stacks Up Its SOA Strategy -- Q&A

At its annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver this week, Microsoft made a few moves to broaden the appeal of its service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, including the introduction of its SOA & Business Process Pack to be available in September.

The new bundle includes a handful of the company's bread-and-butter applications and tools, including BizTalk Server 2006, SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio Team System and Office SharePoint Server 2007. Along with this bundle, the company will also offer technical guidance to users, particularly those attempting their first SOA implementation.

Microsoft also announced a new Branch Edition of BizTalk R2 that helps users better integrate a variety of real-time business processes in branch offices or geographically remote areas with those occurring at a company's headquarters and/or in other remote locations.

I spoke with Burley Kawasaki, director of product management with Microsoft's Connected Systems Division, about the announcements and what they mean to Microsoft's SOA strategy.

How do these announcements move your SOA story forward?
In the past, we have talked about BizTalk Server R2 for supply chain scenarios and we think that is still a pretty untapped area. So we are supporting vertical market and supply chain standards like HIPPA, RosettaNet, Swift and HL7. Previously, we offered these on a standalone purchase basis as accelerators. But in order to remove some of the barriers to deploying these technologies, we are including it as part of the core BizTalk Server engine in both the Standard and Enterprise editions. This will help democratize the supply chain space, especially among the tier 2 and 3 [supply chain] companies that do not have the same level of IT resources as the larger suppliers.

What role will the Branch Edition of BizTalk Server play?
The Branch Edition SKU is targeted at intra-organizational deployments. People are certainly investing in SOA for their back office systems. But what is driving a lot of businesses is what is happening out at the edge -- whether that is a branch, divisional unit or a warehouse -- where real-time processes occur. Often, things that occur out there are out of synch with the core ERP systems in terms of working with the same data and processes. This [product] solves some of the last-mile problems to where you can now connect to real-time events happening on the shop floor and connect them to the corporate hub.

So essentially, the Branch Edition creates new market opportunities not available to you before.
That's right. This is pretty much white space. Today, you might accomplish this through a custom one-off solution. It also represents new market opportunities for our partners that are building solutions around this.

What is the thinking behind the SOA & Business Process Pack?
Well, we get a lot of questions from partners and users about what part of the Microsoft stack they should use for SOA projects, how to use them together and what the right scenarios are for doing a first [SOA] project. We are trying to codify our experience and create an integrated licensing offering where you can buy a single SKU and have all the software you need. But we are also including along with this guidance patterns and practices and reference implementations that show how to implement a first SOA project. We think this pack can be a platform for building Office-based composite apps on top of a SOA infrastructure, including SharePoint, and use Visual Studio tools for modifying and building Office applications.

Talk about your plans to embed BizTalk inside third-party applications.
If you are an ISV building, say, a financial application, you do not want to have to build all the SOA-related infrastructure, so we are giving them an option to resell our technology as part of their solution. It can be completely embedded in their applications so users wouldn't even see it. We think in the SOA space, ISVs will increasingly look to buy rather than build because it figures to be a basic part of their infrastructure.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine. You can contact him at escannell@redmondmag.com.

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